The following is a guest post created by the team at Tetuan Valley Startup School Barcelona, a 6-week program for young wanna-be-entrepreneurs who want to experience what is it like to build a startup.
Many of us are struck with one of those ideas that we are convinced will change the world. We can’t wait to make it happen! But… but where do we start? What comes next? Most probably, we start by sharing it with friends and relatives. We inevitably receive from them a soothing dose of positive feedback: “it’s awesome, just do it!” At this peak of enthusiasm, we are determined to make it happen, but we then look at ourselves in the mirror and ask 3 crucial questions:
- Do I have the time to work on it?
- Do I have the money to invest in it?
- Do I have the skills to do it?
At this point, some people opt for getting things done and start working really hard on building something, either solo or with some friends. These are natural born entrepreneurs, who are determined, hard-working, risk-averse and laser-focused on bringing their idea into life. These Jedis don’t really need anyone to mentor them. If they need help, they know where to find it and what to give in return. Unfortunately, these entrepreneurial heroes are not the norm, but statistical outliers. Most first-time entrepreneur seek some sort of support from their environment to kickstart their project, and that is where these hot things by the name of “accelerators” come into the picture.
Let’s face it: startup accelerators are mushrooming in Spain. These programs come in all shapes and sizes, so it is getting harder for wannabe entrepreneurs to choose the one that best fits their needs. You can easily visit Lord Google and find a dozen of them with just one click. The main divide lies on whether you already have a working product/service (and possibly an incorporated company) or just an idea. If you only have an idea or a very basic prototype, you should apply to a “pre-accelerator” so you can focus on product (re)design, whereas if you already have a working product with actual users (regardless of whether they pay or not), you should apply to an accelerator, so you can focus on growth.
Let’s assume you are still at the idea stage; in this case, you should focus all your energy in validating whether this idea solves an actual problem for someone. In that case, you should validate whether you have the ability (be it alone or with a team) to build that solution as quickly and cheaply as possible. Ideally, you should also validate whether you could market that product, that is, whether someone is willing to pay for it, what in startup parlance is often referred to “monetization”… the arduous path to revenue and thus to creating a Business. In other word, your initial idea is based on a series of assumptions that need to be tested out there in the real world. This is what in lean parlance is called “getting out of the building” and that is the main goal of a pre-accelerator: helping you validate that you have a potential business model, not just an illumination or a pet project.
Pre-acceleration has a second goal besides getting you out of the building and validating your business model, and that is exposing you to the startup ecosystem, so you learn the rules of the game as quickly as possible, and decide for yourself if you want to be part of it for the next years of your professional life. Working on a tech-startup is not like having a day job there is no “gaming” the system as you might be tempted to do at a corporate job. Your project moves forward if and only if you put all your time, mind and soul into it. There is only one rule: Get s*** done! There are no excuses: you either do things or not do them. Make no mistake, you do not attend a pre-accelerator “to learn things” as if it were an academic class, but rather you learn by doing, by trying things and failing. If at the end of the day, you realize this is not for you, that is Ok. No hard feelings. The world is full of opportunities and you just gotta find yours.
Tetuan Valley Startup School is one of those pre-acceleration programs that can help you grow as an entrepreneur. It was created in Madrid 5 years ago and focuses on what they believe to be the 3 key aspects of entrepreneur’s success: customer discovery (finding a problem worth solving), product development (designing and implementing a solution for that problem) and community building (networking with other entrepreneurs so you may get support once you finish the program and are on your own… the going gets tough). And the best of it is that it is absolutely free: no tuition fees, no equity! If you have an idea and want to start working on it now, read more about it and apply by October 15th: http://tetuanvalley.com/startup-school.